Skip to Main Content U.S. Department of Energy
Biological Sciences
We perform Biological Systems Science research using prediction and experimentation to understand the design of biological systems, translating the genome to functional capabilities for applications to energy, environment, and health. Microbial community research at PNNL is focusing on environment and energy processes, and rational design and development of new bioprocesses, while our health-related research is centering on how multicellular systems, tissues and organisms respond to disease and exposure to the environment.

Artistic rendition of cell-permeable chemical probes labeling redox-sensitive cysteine thiols in living <i>Synechococcus</i> sp. PCC7002

Manipulating Chemistry to Better Understand Biology

A team of scientists from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory synthesized a chemical activity-based probe (ABP) that can provide new information about how living cells function. The new ABP is designed to enter a living cell without interacting with anything until it enters a specific organelle: the lysosome. This proof-of-concept ABP then labels only functionally active enzymes called cathepsins, which are cysteine proteases, in the lysosome. Using proteomics and super-resolution microscopy to view these labeled enzymes, the scientists now are able to see organellar activity. Their work, which demonstrates the ability to manipulate chemistry to better understand biology, has been published in Angewandte Chemie International Edition.

PNNL Authors Earn Best Risk Assessment Paper Honors from Society of Toxicology

Congratulations to PNNL scientists Susan Crowell and Justin Teeguarden for their contributions to two published papers named "Best Papers Published in 2013 Demonstrating Application of Risk Assessment" by the Risk Assessment Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology. Crowell and Teeguarden were the primary authors of their respective papers. Rick Corley and Chuck Timchalk were senior authors. Crowell's paper "Impact of Pregnancy on the Pharmacokinetics of Dibenzo[def,p]chrysene in Mice" appeared in Toxicological Sciences. Teeguarden's "A Multi-route Model of Nicotine-cotinine Pharmacokinetics and Brain Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptor Binding in Humans," appeared in Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology.

cover of Analyst journal

In Situ Chemical Imaging at the Sub-Biofilm-Scale Now Possible

A multidisciplinary team at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is the first to demonstrate imaging of a biofilm's chemical components as they form in hydrated biological samples, rather than from frozen or dried samples. They used a surface technique called time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry to study complex microbiological processes, such as chemical attachment of microbes to surfaces to form biofilms. The work used PNNL's vacuum-compatible liquid probe.

Justin Teeguarden Receives Best Abstract Award

PNNL scientist Justin Teeguarden and former PNNL scientist Harish Shankaran received the Best Abstract Award for 2014 from the Risk Assessment Specialty Section of the Society of Toxicology. Teeguarden will present "Improving Urine-Based Human Exposure Assessment of Short-Lived Chemicals Using Reverse Dosimetry and NHANES Physiological and Behavior Data: A Value-of-Information Approach for Bisphenol A" at the Society's annual meeting in March.

Teeguarden leads research related to chemical risk assessment and health effects, most notably that related to the use of Bisphenol A in plastics, and has served on national advisory panels for the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences.


Artistic rendering of graphene and ionic interactions

The Myth of Perfection

Graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms, potentially has the highest surface area among the carbon material and thus has the potential to significantly improve supercapacitors for energy storage and delivery. Yet, it is difficult to understand and control how the charged ionic species are incorporated and transported in the graphene electrodes. Scientists at PNNL and Princeton University found that surface defects alter the liquid's interaction with the graphene surface. The study provides a basic understanding to create better materials for energy storage.

Biological Sciences

Seminar Series

Fundamental & Computational Sciences

Research Highlights

View All BSD Highlights


RSS Feed RSS feed logo


  • YouTube Facebook Flickr TwitThis LinkedIn